Anh Do returns in season three of the TV series Anh's Brush With Fame.
Anh Do returns in season three of the TV series Anh's Brush With Fame.

How comedian captures spirit in famous faces

ANH Do strives to capture the spirit of his subjects when he puts paint to canvas.

But the painter and comedian wasn't sure what to make of actress Sigrid Thornton's reaction when he revealed his interpretation of her in season three of Anh's Brush with Fame.

"Sigrid just burst out laughing hysterically," he says.

"I thought 'Wow, well that's interesting. I've never had that'. It was really loud as if I'd just told her the best joke. She laughed more than any reaction I've got from my stand-up shows. It was just her natural, spontaneous reaction to seeing a massive 1.5-metre portrait of herself. She genuinely liked it."

Everyone says they like the finished result, but things don't always go to plan in the studio.

"I reckon I can sort of tell when they don't like it," he says.

"In one of the earlier seasons, half way into the painting I got into trouble. It wasn't working out, but luckily I had a half-finished study I did the day before when I was practising. I pulled that out and finished it.

"I had a guest in season one, I won't say who it was, who was just dead still. I thought 'Man this guy is so stiff' and then I realised he thought he had to be still. I actually have a whole range of photos and sketches on the table behind me that I refer to throughout the process."

Anh Do is an Archibald Prize-winning painter as well as a comedian, actor and author.
Anh Do is an Archibald Prize-winning painter as well as a comedian, actor and author.

The portrait and the interview that happens during the process are condensed into a half-hour episode.

"We go for three hours, sometimes four," he says. "There are stops and starts, but I finish every painting on the day.

"In a way I've trained myself to do this by just painting friends and family. Say I paint a portrait of my brother, I'm having a yarn to him anyway."

Do pitched the series to the ABC - he likes the fact that there are no ads - and has input into the guests who sit for him.

"I have a guideline: either I love and admire the person or I find the person fascinating," he says. "Your most recent reality TV star is a lot more famous than some of the people I have on, who might be Australians of the Year. This series I was able to paint people who I really admire."

When I ask why he didn't attend the recent Logie Awards, in which the show was nominated for Most Popular Entertainment Program, Do says he doesn't do red carpets.

"I'm actually a bit more introverted than people expect," he says.

"I've always been more of a listening than a talker anyway, you know? That allows me to do this show and just paint away and listen to my guests and allow them to tell their story."

Anh Do paints Terri Irwin's portrait in season three of Anh's Brush with Fame.
Anh Do paints Terri Irwin's portrait in season three of Anh's Brush with Fame.

Season three features Thornton, Terri Irwin, Gill Hicks, Adam Goodes, Carrie Bickmore, Munjed Al Muderis, John Williamson, Lauren Jackson and Dr Karl - who presented a particular challenge for Do.

"I didn't know this, but Dr Karl has a medical condition where he has trouble recognising faces," he says.

"For example, he was at the airport and a guy said hi to him and he pretended to know him. Then he asked his wife 'Who's that guy?' and she said 'He's our neighbour we've known for years'.

"My fear was I was going to show him a painting and I didn't know what was that whole processing was going to be like."

Season three of Anh's Brush with Fame premieres on Wednesday, July 18 at 8pm on ABC-TV.



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